Reveals and Refocuses
For most of us who follow the Torah reading and holiday cycle, the serendipity of intersecting messages should be of little surprise. In this week’s portion, Miketz, the Joseph narrative reaches its dramatic conclusion as he finally reveals himself to his brothers, not as the Vice-Pharaoh they are fearfully facing, but rather as the long-lost brother they left for dead. Rather than exacting retribution, Joseph instead proclaims that the perilous journey in which they plunged him was actually the unfolding destiny of the Jewish people emerging through the dysfunction of their family, comforting them with the assurance that, “It was to save life that God sent me on before you.”
Similarly, as we enter the Shabbat of Chanukah, we are reminded of the tension inherent in the Rabbis’ response to the commemoration of the Maccabean victory over Greek tyranny. The descendants of Judah’s merry band, the Hasmoneans, became a corrupt and tyrannical dynasty. In pushing the story of the miracle of the oil as the central message of Chanukah, the Rabbis sought to shift focus from a celebration of a military victory to gratitude for God’s intervention.
The larger message of both the portion and the holiday inspires us to see in human events the hand of the God, and to invest our ultimate faith less in the travails of history than in the timeless power of divinity.
– Rabbi Daniel Weiner